Exercise and the menopause
Now before you think ‘There she goes again nagging about exercise’ let me just whisper something really important:
I am not particularly keen on exercise! There, I have come clean!
I would rather read a good book, eat or meditate! However, I am well and truly aware of how very, very important exercise is in the menopause to keep us healthy and I do know that doing regular exercise that I enjoy (this is the important bit!) makes me feel better and that alone encourages me to do it. So how can I convince you that regular exercise will be of benefit for you too?
10 reasons why you should exercise during the menopause
1. Lifts the Mood
Exercise produces ‘feel good’ chemicals that lift your mood, make you feel happier and can reduce low mood, anxiety and stress.
2. Promotes the Production of Pain-Killing Chemicals from the Brain Stem
Muscle and joint aches and pains are very common in the menopause, so regular, gentle exercise can reduce the discomfort, without any of the drawbacks of taking painkillers.
3. Improves Circulation
Circulation can deteriorate in the menopause, worsening varicose veins and causing poor/dehydrated/itchy skin and foggy thinking.
4. Keeps your Immune System Strong and Healthy
Regular exercise can boost your immune system, making you less vulnerable to everyday infections. Immune cells can circulate better if your bloodstream isn’t sluggish.
5. Keeps Bones Strong
A major symptom of the menopause can be osteoporosis, where the bones become weaker and can fracture more easily. Regular weight bearing exercise promotes proper bone formation.
6. Improves Muscle Mass
Good muscle tone not only supports your joints, making joint pain/damage less likely, but also helps you to keep your figure. High muscle mass burns more calories than fat does, so this can help with weight control too. Tip: even 10 minutes of exercise in the morning before breakfast means that you will burn energy faster all day!
7. Improves Digestion
Falling oestrogen can make your digestion sluggish leading to bloating, indigestion and constipation (remember that constipation can be a contributory factor in hot flushes too!) Regular exercise ‘massages’ your digestive system, improving digestion and elimination.
8. Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Heart problems in women tend to increase with age so looking after your heart with regular exercise is very important.
9. Regulates The Metabolism
Falling hormones can affect your metabolism, making weight gain easier. Regular exercise helps to keep that ‘menopausal fat around the middle’ at bay
10. Improves Lung Function
Good breathing patterns help to expel toxins through the breath and this keeps your blood pH less acidic, protecting you against osteoporosis.
MY FITNESS TIPS
All of these benefits for a simple 10-20 minutes a day!
What are the best forms of exercise and how often should you exercise? There are several important points to remember:
For exercise to be of any benefit it needs to be regular. Short amounts of daily exercise will probably be more beneficial for you during the menopause rather than pounding away on machines in the gym once a week.
You do need to get your heart rate up, especially if you want to get the benefit for heart health.
Find a form of exercise that you really love – if you try to force yourself to exercise doing something you don’t like you are more likely to give up! I love Yoga (this is my early morning favourite as it stretches me, relaxes me for the day ahead and gives my heart a quick workout), walking/hiking and PACE – this is one of those high intensity/short time programmes. This only takes me 15 minutes, which is great for after-work exercising, and you can do it in your own home.
Don’t over-exercise and have at least one rest day a week. Please remember that the menopause itself puts tremendous pressure on the body, using up vital energy whilst trying to rebalance itself. If you go exercise mad you will just end up fatigued and the body will more than likely slow down your metabolism to conserve energy. Some women find that the more they exercise the more the weight stays the same or even goes up!
If you really hate the thought of regimented exercise then just try to be more active and energetic during your day. Run up the stairs whenever you can, get off a bus a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way. Get a mini trampoline and jump up and down for 10 minutes whilst watching the TV (I often do this in the morning if I don’t fancy Yoga or if I am running a bit late!)
So, what’s your favourite exercise and what benefits does it give you?